he Rafale Jet deal, in which cronyism, massive corruption and more are alleged, has all the makings of a mega scam. It is also believed that this would come up as the most potent “brahmastram” to nail Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP at the head of the NDA. It having already taken the prime slot in the campaign against the Modi government at a time when parliamentary polls are just a few months away, the tempo of the offensive is bound only to intensify irrespective of whether a court scrutiny would help either way.
The claim made by Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier that the selection of the Anil Ambani group as a partner for the deal with India was not prompted by any move from the Indian government does not cut much ice. After the issue came upfront, the company itself was evasive about such aspects for a fairly long period, and its assertions often lacked conviction. This is also a reason why the matter has gone up to the Supreme Court. When the court asked for relevant papers or details of the deal, the government failed to respond in a clear manner. It has submitted papers relating to what it sought to hide under secrecy clause, on the price tag in specific, but has obliged the court later under pressure of the circumstances. All matters relating to a defence-related deal cannot be openly discussed or debated. That has been a well-understood premise. Still, the way the government responded in matters relating to the Rafale deal, many doubts arose.
Perceptions gained ground that the government brought in an inexperienced newly formed company, cancelling the much experienced public sector undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with possible ulterior motives. The perceived huge difference between the offer for Rafale jets in the past and now was also seen to be suspicious. As the court is seized of such matters, no further discussion is warranted at this time other than stating what’s obvious.
While the Modi government has a lot to explain by way of answering questions relating to its performance in the past five years, as it approached the day of reckoning for 2019, more issues are bound to crop up for serious public debate. For instance, Demonetisation, which proved to be a major disaster for the economy, would not escape closer scrutiny in the coming months – two years after the PM’s abrupt announcement.
Curiously, other matters that would put the Modi government on the defensive are springing up. The observation by a prominent media analyst on rural and farmer-related affairs a day ago, that the insurance scheme introduced by the Modi government for farmers, the PMFBY, would turn out to be a scam bigger than the Rafale, is no small matter. According to the analyst P Sainath, 18 insurance companies have collected over Rs 66,000 crore in premium from farmers, alongside contributions from state and central governments in the past three years. But, the crop loss compensation paid by the insurance firms was too little in comparison. Where did this huge amount disappear would also be a question asked by many.
With just months left for the Lok Sabha polls, this is likely the season for many more such exposes. All of these have taken the present Modi government to the same level as that of the UPA, whose alleged indulgences in corruption provided ammunition to the BJP and Modi to fight the last General Elections successfully. Soon, the public mood accessing the governance quality of past five years will be known to all. The courts have only just indicated which way the breeze could blow.